West Coast History and Heritage Sites
The West Coast region was named Te Tai O Poutini by early Maori and was valued highly for its pounamu jade. Maori settlements on the West Coast date back centuries. Later, Europeans came seeking the other precious resources of the area like gold, coal and timber.
Many historic features of the West Coast can be visited today and are accessible by road or on various walks. Roadside plaques, information panels and signs will point you in the right direction and provide invaluable information. Or consult your closest Visitor Information Centre for more out of the way historic spots.
Visit old cemeteries, historic road and rail bridges, old gold mines and ghost towns and much more – they all have their story to tell…
West Coast Heritage Sites
Museum - Displays cover Maori history, farming, gold mining, sawmilling, flaxmilling, shipping and the earthquake of 1929 that ruined the port and brought more challenges to this isolated community.
Fenian Track to Adams Flat – The track leads to gold workings and a replica hut at Adams Flat.
Chasm Creek Walkway – A surviving section of the Seddonville branch railway also features a tunnel, bridge and river views. 30 minute return walk. A return night visit it recommended to view the glow worms in the tunnel.
Charming Creek Walkway - Follows a railway line up a spectacular gorge to an abandoned coal mine, sawmill sites and numerous relics. There is access from Ngakawau and beyond Seddonville. 3 hours each way.
Stockton Coal Aerial – The bucket line brings coal down from Stockton plateau to the mine bins.
Museum – A small museum, formerly a State Coal Mines building, stands next to some historic coke ovens.
Incline Walkway – A track leads to part of the incline rail system, complete with coal tubs and tunnels.
Mine Sites – A hilltop mining town, it has mine sites, rope road formations, the shell of a bathhouse and a dam wall. Part of an inclined rail system that took coal down to Granity can be visited via a short track from the old Millerton Road. 30 minutes return walk.
Britannia Gold Mine – North of Waimangaroa a bush track to quarts mine workings and a complete 5-head stamp battery. Recreational gold panning in the creek. 3 hour return walk.
Conns Creek Yards – A railway shunting area at the foot of the Denniston Incline with 'Q' wagons and crane.
Denniston Bridle Track– A walk up from the flats near Waimangaroa also gives access to the incline. 5 hours and 40 minutes return.
Brakehead – Reclines and superb views from the top of the famous incline.
Banbury Arch and the Camp – The stone structure that gave access to the first mine can be viewed a short distance from the break head. 40 minute walk return.
Museum – Friends of the Hill, who look after much of the township, operate a small museum, open in summer and holidays.
Town Walk – A loop around settlement and mine sites.
Burnetts Face Settlement and Roperoad– Past Denniston via a good shingle road.
Coalbrookdale Walkway – From Burnetts Face former town site, a walk up the formation of a coal transport rope road leads to mines and a brick fanhouse. 2 hours return.
Coal Town Museum – An essential stop before exploring the old coalfields.
Buller Coalfields Heritage Trail – Links localities north to Seddonville.
Historic Buildings– The Coast’s oldest town has buildings from colonial to art deco periods.
Railway and Quarry – Traces of the line & seaside quarry for Westport’s harbour works.
Lighthouses – The functioning lighthouse and foundations of the original are at the north end of the walkway to Tauranga Bay seal colony.
Addisons Flat - The cemetery is the last trace of a once famous gold mining town.
Mitchells Gully Gold Mine – An authentic operation with tunnels and a water-powered battery crushing gold-bearing cement, characteristic of the Charleston field. Gold Panning.
Constant Bay – A former goldfield harbour with a walk to the signal station site.
Pioneer Cemeteries – Catholics and Protestants at the opposite end of town.
Te Ana o Matuku – A sea cave occupied by traveller’s from the earliest days.
Fox River Bridge – A timber truss bridge gives walking access to a former road tunnel.
Miner's Hall – A restored Miners' Hall, emblazoned with union slogans, also graces the town that vies with Blackball for the title of Home of the New Zealand Labour Party.
Little Earth – The gold town of Waiuta and Reefton village re – created to scale.
Cobden Gun Placement – A short but steep climb to a WW2 relic with town and river views. 20 minutes uphill walk.
Mawhera Village Sites – Marked by a plaque beside the highway bridge.
Town Heritage Walk – Takes you on a journey around historic buildings in Greymouth. Murals depicting the history of the town can be seen on many of the buildings.
Greymouth Evening Star Mural – Headlines from local history. Mackay Street.
History House – Contains a huge collection of photographs and relics on many aspects of life in the area, including gold and coal mining. It also contains a 3D map of the area showing the coal mines.
Coal River Park – Relics and sculptures on floodwall and wharf celebrate the harbour and its main export.
Shantytown – A faithfully recreated pioneer town that reveals the character of today's New Zealand
Woods Creek – A bush through old gold workings with tunnels and water races to explore. 45 minutes walk return.
Railway Walkway – A track on the old Nelson-Kawatiri rail formation crosses a bridge and passes through a tunnel.
Museum – Displays in the former Post Office recall the devastating 1929 earthquake and other local history. (Please make a donation).
Lyell Walkway – Ghost town revived by photographs. Walk links cemetery, alluvial gold workings and stamp battery.
Visitor Centre - Features a mine engine and realistic “underground” section.
Historic Town Walk – Passes buildings dating from the town’s earliest days, including the School of Mines.
Power House Walk– Recalls NZ’s first public electricity supply of 1888
Railway Precinct – Station, locomotive shed and (in town) a Fairlie locomotive.
Cemeteries – In town and 3km south, graves of prospectors and miners.
Alborns Coal Mine – A track around remains of a small coal mining operation.
Gold Mine, Battery, Sawmill and Coal Mines – A remarkable historic complex, accessible via walking tracks or 4WD road.
Museum – Much mining and domestic memorabilia. (Please make a donation.)
Murray Creek-Lankey Creek Tracks – Link the reef mines that gave rise to Reefton. Golden Lead Walks – Along a water race with a longer option to a battery.
A Tiny School – Marks a settlement with gold rush roots. (Donation please)
Town and Mine – Relics of the Coast’s last great gold strike
Battery and Powerhouse – Foundations linked via a raceman’s track.
Prohibition Hill – The top of NZ’s deepest mine shaft (879 meters).
Sluice Guns – Hydraulic sluicing “monitors” mark the Moonlight Road turn-off.
Moonlight Track – Passes tailing walls, hut sites, water race and battery.
Town Walk – Covers the town’s significant remaining buildings and other sites.
Mine Site – Chimneys, ventilator and bath house shell adjacent to the road.
Blackball – Road Railway Line – Includes unusual timber bridges.
Croesus Track – Crosses the Paparoa range, passing gold workings, miner’s huts and battery.
An Unusual Footbridge – Crosses to bush tracks through intriguing gold workings.
Locally Built Logging Locomotive – Beside State Highway 7.
Coke Ovens – Coal mines, brickworks and coke linked by a suspension bridge.
Brunner Disaster Grave – Last resting place for victims of New Zealand’s most deadly mine explosion that killed 67 men and boys who worked in the mine.
School and Mini Bungalow – Reminders of a former sawmilling settlement.
Moana Rail Precinct – Historic Rail precinct with a station, overhead footbridge and station master's residence. A popular stopping point on the Trans Alpine train route.
Bain Bay – Bush walk to a former lakeside logging camp and wharf.
Cemetery – Scattered graves overlook the site of a vanished gold town.
Albert Hunt Plaque – Commemorates the Coast’s first payable gold rush.
Historic Displays – Recall a late great gold rush and miner/politician R.J. Seddon.
Swimming Pool – A unique facility, formed among tailing boulders.
Londonderry Rock– A house – sized boulder amidst stacks of sluice tailings.
Goldsbrough – Mining tunnels and a gold panning area where a gold town stood.
Stafford Cemetery – People of many nationalities lie in a genuine “Boot Hill”.
Arahura Plaque – Recognizes the special status of the river to Maori as the source of Pounamu (nephrite jade or greenstone)
Cemetery – Graves dating from the gold days, plus panoramic view.
Lighthouse – Restored timber tower on Seaview Hill, near the cemetery.
Heritage Area – A replica shipwreck recalls the busy port and treacherous entrance.
Carnegie Building – The columned library now serves as the visitor centre, art gallery and museum entrance.
Museum – Features displays, research archives and audio visuals. (Entry fee).
Town Walk – Shop window panels trace site histories since the gold rush.
Lake Kaniere Water Race Walk – Follows a system built for gold mining and now used to generate electricity.
Rimu Lookout – A view over one of the country’s great goldfields.
Lake Mahinapua – Paddle steamer and timber truss rail bridge.
Information Centre – Has a covered gold panning area, models of gold mining machinery inside and full-scale replicas outside. An original settler's cottage and the former town jail provide insights into life in the past.
Walkway – Follows a high-level water race past gold workings and a replica miner's hut to the original town cemetery with great views. Guided walks are available. 45 minutes moderate walk.
Trans Tasman Flight – A replica Avian aeroplane commemorates the first solo flight trans- Tasman solo flight, by Guy Menzies in 1931. Information panels indicate the landing site.
Wharf Shed– A reconstructed remnant of gold rush shipping days.
Donovan's Store – Restored upon The Strand, the gold rush main street.
School – A century old building now restored as a youth hostel.
Hendes Gallery - A wrought iron-cliff side structure on Roberts Point track.
St James Anglican Church – Famous for glacier views that come and go, due to global warming.
Tatare Track - The impressive Tatare tunnels, driven through solid rock, were used in gold mining and hydro electricity generation.
Cemetery – The only tangible trace of another former gold town.
Gold Dredges – Parts of two machines that worked the sand for gold.
Knights Point – Lookout – Scene of the highway opening in 1965.
Haast Visitor Centre – Covers aspects of history from Maori traveller’s to modern road makers.
Hapuka Estuary Walk – Panels interpret historic aspects of Open Bay Islands, viewed from the track.
Wharf – The Coast’s most southern settlement boasts its sole sea wharf.
Lonely Grave – The earliest known European burial spot on the West Coast.
Information Shelter – Interprets history from early Maori to a disastrous Government settlement of the 1870s.